Intellectual property: the basics

IP rights: trade marks


Trade marks are common intellectual property (IP) assets. They are signs used in trade to identify products and services in the market, or the business that supplies them.

What can be trademarked?

Trade marks can take many forms. They can be:

  • symbols
  • logos
  • words
  • names
  • colours
  • gestures
  • a combination of these elements

You may not be able to register all your identifying marks as trade marks. There are rules on what makes acceptable marks - see what is a trade mark.

What does having a trade mark mean?

For nearly all businesses, trade marks are highly valuable. They can protect your brand, prevent counterfeiting and fraud, and increase your recognition in the market place.

You can register your trade mark to get exclusive rights to use, licence, franchise or sell it. Trade marks are territorial rights, so bear in mind you may need to protect your mark in multiple markets if you trade overseas. See how to register a trade mark.

How to protect your trade marks

Whilst you don't have to register your trade mark to use it, registration will give you the strongest protection. If someone is using your registered trade mark without authorisation on competing or related goods or services, this may constitute trade mark infringement.

Read more about protecting registered trade marks.

Even without registering your trade mark, you may still be able to take action against someone who uses your mark on their goods or services without your permission. This is known as 'passing off'.

For a quick introduction to trade marks, watch the Intellectual Property Office video below.

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